Tuesday, January 22, 2008
Southampton boss Burley set for Scotland job
George Burley is set to be offered the chance to take over as manager of Scotland.The Scottish Football Association are expected to approach Southampton on Wednesday to seek permission to appoint Burley.An SFA interview panel, including president George Peat and chief executive Gordon Smith, have identified a preferred candidate.Although the SFA have refused to confirm Burley is that man, it is understood the panel have decided he is the most suitable candidate for the job.Burley was one of four contenders who spoke with the interview panel, along with Mark McGhee, Tommy Burns and Graeme Souness.Providing the SFA board ratify the panel's decision, the Ayrshire man will be the man asked to lead Scotland to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, however an appointment will not be announced on Wednesday.Once a dark horse for the job, the former Hearts manager was backed in to the status of firm favourite on Tuesday.The 51-year-old still took training with Southampton and the Coca-Cola Championship club stressed they had not heard from the SFA this week.'We have had no contact from the SFA,' said acting chief executive Lee Hoos.However Southampton did recently give Burley permission to talk to Hampden chiefs about the position.Burley said at the weekend: 'It is a great honour that Scotland asked to speak to me.'There is a lot to consider. I am very happy at Southampton but if your country asks to speak to you then it is only right to do so.'Discussions over compensation payable to Southampton will have to take place before the appointment can be confirmed.And the SFA will be mindful of ensuring the negotiations are amicable, having been upset by the manner of Alex McLeish's resignation to take charge at Birmingham in November, shortly after Scotland's Euro 2008 qualification hopes were ended by Italy.Motherwell manager McGhee had been an early favourite for the Scotland job on the back of his impressive leadership of the Fir Park club this season.He is set to miss out though, to his regret, admitting it was a role he aspired to.Motherwell will be glad to retain McGhee, who has transformed the fortunes of a side who were in relegation trouble towards the end of last season.McGhee said: '[I would be] disappointed, yes, absolutely disappointed, but I was flattered to be one of the candidates who was even considered for the job.'That was a huge thing for me. I'm terribly proud of being Scottish, having played for my country, and I would have been proud to be manager.'But life goes on. I think whoever the manager is going to be, if it is George or whoever, I'll be right behind them.'Burley, born in Cumnock, has vast experience in club management and also won 11 caps for Scotland as a defender from 1979 to 1982.Much of his playing career was spent with Ipswich, where he made over 500 appearances for the Tractor Boys. Burley also played for Sunderland, Gillingham, Motherwell and Falkirk.He began his career as a manager with Ayr in 1991. He combined management and playing duties before departing in 1993.He took up another player-manager role with Colchester in 1994 before moving on to boss Ipswich, Derby, Hearts and Southampton.He led Ipswich to a fifth-place finish in the Premier League in 2001, securing a UEFA Cup place.At Hearts he briefly threatened to make the Edinburgh side serious challengers to the Old Firm, but departed after a superb start to the 2005-06 season due to 'irreconcilable differences' with the board.His spell with Southampton began in December 2005, following Harry Redknapp's resignation.Saints are struggling to mount a promotion push for the third straight year while the club still lack the investment required to make a mark on the transfer market.Burley has been forced to sell stars such as Theo Walcott, Gareth Bale, Kenwyne Jones and Chris Baird in the past two years and the pull of the Scotland job is expected to be too strong to resist.